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@ 2017 by James Banks, licensed under a Creative Commons 
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v. 0.4, 14 July 2017 
My website is 

The type used is Donald Knuth’s Computer Modern Serif. 


I wrote a very long book over the last year, but I think 
what I most want to say from it fits in a short book, af¬ 
ter all. This is that book. 

This book is entitled Destruction and Beauty. It is about 
the destruction of coercive beliefs and the suggestion of 
non-coercive beliefs, based in beauty. 

Because this book is so short, I’ll put the acknowledg¬ 
ments here: 

Thanks, first of all, to all the educational people I’ve 
known, who have shaped me (on purpose or not, lovingly 
or not) to be able to see what I see. I can’t name all of 
them, so I won’t name any of them. 

Thanks to the friends of my writing, through the years: 
Gerrit, Richard, Terje, Natalia, and Sarah. 

Thanks to the artists “who have known the true gods of 
sound and stone and word and tint” (some of whom I’ll 
mention later in the book). What an awful life, but how 
helpful to me. 



here are some things that I have found beautiful 
over and over: 

Blue Bell Knoll by Cocteau Twins 
Loveless by My Bloody Valentine 
“Hymn of the Cherubim” by Tchaikovsky 
Adowa music 
Sacred Harp music 

The ikons in the Timken Museum 

Song of Solomon and Jeremiah 

Oranges and mandarins, with a heartbreaking taste. 


Maybe, you will find these beautiful as well. 


What can we know? 

What is knowledge? It is certainly a true belief. If I 
have a true belief, then my mind is attuned to the way 
things are outside it. Perhaps my mind, part of my 
mind, is attuned to the way things are in the rest of my 

But if I observe my mind, I find in it many beliefs. 

Which ones are true? I think I’ve just brought the prob¬ 
lem up all over again. How can I know what is true? 

How can I know that my way of knowing the truth is 
good? Is it true that “My way of knowing the truth is 
good”? I would have to know that my way of knowing 
the truth was good, in order to know anything at all. 

But that brings the problem up all over again. How can 
I know what is true? 

So, some things I have to just know are true, without 
knowing why, or how I know they’re true. Otherwise, I 
don’t know anything. But then, why not believe every¬ 
thing? If I can accept one thing as true, out of nowhere, 
for no reason, then why not accept something else as 
true, out of nowhere, for no reason? How can I draw a 
line between things? 

The preceding could be called “epistemology”, the branch 
of knowledge that attempts to understand knowledge it¬ 
self, the practice of examining knowledge, the subject 


For further study: 

Alexander, Scott. “Meditations on Moloch”, 
http: //slatest 
meditations-on- moloch / 

Breininger, Natalia. “Loved to Love Ya, Baby, Bai-Bye”. 
https: //nat j u. wordpress .com/2016/04/30/ 

(the phrase “strangers to [a person’s] heart”, from 
the “Theism” chapter, came from this.) 

Brown, Philip. New Wine for the End Times. 

(the book that made the Bible, taken literally, 
make sense to me) 

Maybury-Lewis, David. Millennium: Tribal Wisdom and 

the Modem World. 

(also referenced: Iyengar’s The Art of Choosing , Friesen’s 
Decision Making and the Will of God.) 

Descartes said “I think, therefore I am”, and this is how 
he found something he couldn’t doubt. I agree with 
Descartes. I think that since I think, I can’t doubt that I 
am. I can’t imagine otherwise. But people have ques- 




tioned Descartes. I don’t understand how they do it, but 
they see otherwise than I do, and than Descartes did. 

So, just because I can’t imagine otherwise, I can’t assume 
that I’m right. It could just be a failure of my imagina- 
There is always more to say, but that is all. tion. 

Kant said something like, “the thing-in-itself can never be 
known, we can only see appearances”. Reality could be 
completely otherwise than what is intelligible to human 

I’ve thought about solipsism. Maybe the whole universe 
is just my consciousness, plus a subconscious that says 
things that might surprise me. How could I prove other¬ 

But someone might then say, “OK, Descartes and Kant 
said what they said, and you’ve said what you’ve said, 
but what practical difference does it make?” 

This is a persuasive counter-argument. 

Does epistemology matter when I play racquetball? No. 
Does epistemology matter when I talk to someone? 
Sometimes, but often enough, no. Does epistemology 
matter when I’m happy about something that happened 
to me? No. Does epistemology matter when I pray? No 
— only when I wish I could pray. Does epistemology 
matter when I’m in love? Sometimes, but often enough, 
no. Does epistemology matter when I breathe? No. 

If epistemology doesn’t help me live my life better, then I 
can just forget about it, right? But then I still need to 
know how to know things. I think what often happens is 
that I forget to question certain foundational beliefs, be¬ 
liefs which I don’t question, and then from these I go on 



to live my life, until there’s some kind of problem. 

This idea is beautiful and very persuasive. It shuts me 
up inside, calms and soothes me. 

However, why should I think this lias anything to do 
with reality? Why should my own goals, my own desires 
and Hustings, have anything to do with what is? 

Just because something is beautifully persuasive, doesn’t 
mean it’s true. 

But it could be true. There could be some essential con¬ 
nection between what is beautiful and useful and what is 
true. Maybe the universe is person-centered. Maybe re¬ 
ality is person-centered. 

But how could I know that that is true? 

I live in different contexts. I’ve been a few different 
things in rny life. Sometimes I live in the context of eco¬ 
nomics, politics and systems. There’s a certain feel to 
that. I could recommend books or blogs that take me 
there. Sometimes I live in the context of philosophy (in 
which place I find epistemology), other times in the con¬ 
text of my religious faith. Sometimes I am in the context 
of being a 29 year old, hanging out with my friends in 
the city. Sometimes I am in the context of someone try¬ 
ing to make money. 

Is it the case that the context of philosophy is the one in 
which we come to know truths that apply (though it 
might seem otherwise) in all the other contexts? Or is 
philosophy (thus, epistemology), only true in its own con¬ 
text, or in some selection of contexts? 

used it as a weapon on them, after all. But my conscious 
experience was not of that at all. On the inside I was my 
usual calm, mildly loving self. 

I think that’s what it’s like to be an animal. Sometimes 
animals do very animal things. But they seem to have 
personalities, and I think that’s because they really are 
personal beings. 

I don’t know if this applies to all animals, but it might. 

So I try to treat all animals as persons, or at least it is 
my goal to try to treat them all as persons. 

I don’t know about plants (and fungi and single-celled 
organisms). That is a topic for another book. 

So I want to not only anthropomorphize God but also 
“zoomorphize” God, and “theomorphize” humans and ani¬ 
mals. We’re different, but we’re all personal beings. A 
slogan: “If humanism, then theism and zooism”. So there 
could be one term “personism”, to include all three. 




There is a kind of love that we have for persons which re¬ 
quires us to love animals. This has been my experience, 
at least. If we love animals, it teaches us a faculty of lov¬ 
ing humans. 

I think it is beautiful to believe that each animal is a 
personal being, just as I am a personal being and God is 
a personal being. We are each subjects, experiences 
drawn together in a distinct point of view. We not only 
feel, but can have a life as deep as the loneliest night. 

We can have preferences and a heart. 

Animals look different than humans because God clothes 
them differently, speaks them differently. They behave 
differently because there is a veil over them. 

Drunk people sometimes have a veil over them. What I 
mean is that they are themselves, but who they are 
doesn’t come through, because of the alcohol. It comes 
through, but it doesn’t. I don’t drink, but this is what 
I’ve seen sometimes. I wonder if it feels that way to a 
drunk person? 

I do have bipolar disorder, and I had a full-blown manic 
episode where I experienced what I guess could be called 
dissociation. I can remember being two different people. 
The orderlies were moving me from place to place in 
some kind of mental health facility, and I very calmly 
and without any malice, anger, or ill-intent felt like I 
should pick up the oxygen tank which for some reason 
was with me. The orderlies said “He’s got the oxygen 
tank!” and moved to restrain me. Maybe I would have 

If reality is person-centered, then each of the contexts is 
held together by a personal being. Somehow, in my case, 
though each context seems to have a past and a future 
all its own, they are held together in my life, and I expe¬ 
rience numerous different ones of them, and (though each 
has its own distinct past and future life, each tells my life 
story reaching from the farthest past to the never-ending 
future), I go from one to another. And then epistemol¬ 
ogy becomes a footnote to the whole. 

What is actually true in every context is then something 
other than philosophy. Can we say what that acontex- 
tual truth is? Maybe. If we could express it adequately 
in words, then we could enter into philosophy about it. 
But epistemology would still apply. Epistemology 
doesn’t go away. So we have to deny philosophy, deny 
textual thinking, at some point. 

When I speak to a person, there are the assumptions, 
feelings, impressions which are spoken textually, conveyed 
in words, in text, out loud, explicitly; and there are those 
assumptions, feelings, impressions, which are unspoken, 
conveyed “between the lines” of words, in subtext, or non¬ 
verbally, implicitly. The subtextual world is powerful, 
and can sometimes be brought into text, and sometimes 
cannot, can sometimes be half-seen, and sometimes oper¬ 
ates completely beyond our awareness. Reasoning dis¬ 
solves boundaries, always asking “why not?” But what is 
subtextual is immune to textual reasoning. And this is 
how we do not fall prey to epistemology. 

Is there something wrong with falling prey to epistemol¬ 

Maybe not. I don’t know that I could prove otherwise. 



If I speak to people who are fully committed to textual 
reasoning, then I speak to people who have gone into a 
complete destruction of all knowledge. These people are 
agnostics. What is left, except to make suggestions, and 
to paint pictures with words? If I speak to people who 
reserve some part of themselves to subtext, who affirm 
this as valid (implicitly, where it counts, or explicitly, 
where it is less essential), then I can try to prove a point, 
but it is just as well that I say what is beautiful. 

This helps us understand his point of view and have his 
heart. Sometimes we have to do this in the half-atheism 
of prudence, where we have to manage resources as 
though God will not help us. Other times we have to 
rely on God to tell us what to do, because we need to 
come closer to him in that way. We have to learn to 
track God’s reality, to be sensitive to him, but also to 
track the reality of people, to be sensitive to them. 

God is described as “Father” in the Bible. When we were 
young, perhaps 5 years old, some of us may have thought 
that our fathers were terrifying, and knew everything, 
and could come in and out of our lives at their sovereign 
discretion. But then, 20 or 30 years later, we see our fa¬ 
thers much differently. Our fathers are not terrifying, we 
know they don’t know everything, and we know that 
they are not sovereign. And yet we still love them, as 
though none of that really mattered. But now we are to 
an age to help our fathers in their good work, and to 
support them in their frailty — just as we are frail. And 
in reality, we are at the age now to have five-year-old 
children of our own, and if we are men, to be their terri¬ 
fying, all-knowing, sovereign fathers. But we know that 
we are frail, and our fathers knew they were frail, when 
we were 5 years old. 

God is less frail than us and less frail than our fathers, 
but is vastly more responsible and emotional. 

This all, is this beautiful? 



We can love people, and God, as an image. We can extol 
them, speak well of them, find them exciting and appeal¬ 
ing, think of how good they are, long to be with them, 
explain to everyone all their good points, never stop 
thinking or talking about them because of their good fea¬ 
tures, their natures. 

We can also love people, and God, as people. I can be 
an artist’s fan, but I probably can’t help her if she’s sick. 
Her husband can bring something to her in the hospital, 
and help pay her medical bills, and be present to her, but 
the most I can do is buy a copy of her alburn. I suppose 
I love her as a person if I do that, but it’s nothing com¬ 
pared to her husband’s love of her. And I might not buy 
her alburn, after all, though I could extol her and recom¬ 
mend her to anyone. 

If we no longer love people as images, then how can we 
find whom to love? There’s no reason to choose one per¬ 
son over another. Whatever might choose one person 
over another depends on their image, but we no longer 
look to image. So if we really love people as people, we 
love all people. If we love in this way, we love God and 
all people. And God loves all people. The God who 
makes us forsake all idols does not set up any of us as 

There are limitations which force us to choose one person 
over another to help. For God, the only lirrritation is his 
own discouragement. So if we are demandingly loving of 
someone, we can pray, and if it was for someone for 
whom God could do something (in his wisdom and con¬ 
straint), he can help that person. This is one way to 
help God, to be theists. 

Another way to be a theist is to seek to do God’s work. 




I was born single, and I think I’ll die single. 

Some people say “everyone dies alone”, and mean that as 
a saying of horror. But I think that there’s something 
beautiful about that. I think that death is an offering. I 
offer myself to God. When I die, I finally let go. Death 
is the completion of trust. 

And then what happens? I don’t know. If I knew, I 
wouldn’t be letting go. I have my thoughts about this, 
about a God who would, and will, resurrect me, but I do 
not think these thoughts in every context. 

I am romantically unattached. I was born that way, and 
I think I’ll die that way. If the saying is “everyone dies 
alone”, then it could also be “everyone can live alone”. 
Dying alone and living alone are parallel. It’s just you. 

I like having empty pockets. 

I realized at some point that neither promiscuity, mar¬ 
riage, nor celibacy came easy to me. Some people don’t 
seem to have a choice, but I do. Because I have a choice, 
it’s hard. But then I am free to choose what is most 
beautiful to me. So I have chosen to be celibate. 

A number of years ago (5 years ago), I read a book on 
choosing (Sheena Iyengar’s book The Art of Choosing) 
and did an exercise in it, and from that realized that my 
priorities were not to have a family. That was part of 
my decision. 

That same year, I read a book about decision-making 

with God, it makes sense from God’s point of view to 
keep us alive. He can destroy the world (the outward ap¬ 
pearances of things) and bring us all back to a new ar¬ 
rangement of things, but our hearts remain ours, and 
would begin to propagate new external problems in a 
new world. 

However, though God can be discouraged and temporar¬ 
ily kept from doing what he wants, he can’t be killed, 
and as long as we are not hardened toward him, we can 

In the meantime, there is a lot of unnecessary suffering. 

For a few people, those who harden themselves against 
God, there waits hell, which is a finite suffering, and then 
they go to nothing. Hell, as a belief, and as a place, has 
its place. If we must fear, better to fear God than other 
things. But hell is heartbreaking, and the fear of God is 
not necessary, if we love God. 

The story I’ve just told is ugly, in some ways, but evil is 
ugly and speaks against beauty. There is beauty in the 
ugliness. I don’t know if I believe this story I’ve told. 
Maybe it’s too new for me, or maybe my heart is not al¬ 
truistic enough. It may be incompatible with the Bible. 
Jeremiah 32:27 says “Behold, I am the LORD, the God 
of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” 3 — which is a 
question that could be answered “yes”, but which is in 
the form of a rhetorical question. Yet a limited God 
might be forced to maintain a terrifying, perfect image, 
even if in reality he couldn’t do everything. Perhaps this 
is too ugly a thought. 

3 English Standard Version 



So God is under a lot of stress, and can be discouraged, 
weighed down. 

What is the nature of God’s power? It could be that he 
is able to speak to everyone, and can think very quickly, 
to think of the right things to say. This is why the 
sensed world can be so immediately persuasive. Perhaps 
God is infinite because he operates infinitely quickly. In 
that case, he can act on all other beings in a way that he 
has impressive power over them, but if his own thought 
process turns against him, as it can in depression or dis¬ 
couragement, then for him to operate infinitely quickly 
harms him all the faster. He could become so over¬ 
whelmed with discouragement that he might destroy the 
whole world and start all over. But he can manage this 
emotion by withdrawing from certain contexts, such as 
the contexts of paying attention to us in our personal re¬ 
alities of suffering and sin. Instead, he can numb himself 
as we do what we do with his body. 

By disengaging with us, he allows evil into our personal 
lives. Because he can be stressed by evil, then Satan, 
who is a finite being (or a nation of beings), has leverage 
over him. Because of this, God and Satan negotiate. 

Out of these negotiations come features of our reality 
that are hard to explain if a loving God exists, exactly to 
alienate some of us from God, and to cause us misery, 
which is to Satan a good in itself. But these negotiations 
allow God to do more good in the present than otherwise 

(Garry Friesen’s book Decision Making and the Will of 
God) and the author drew my attention to what the 
Bible says about romance. Jesus suggests, to those who 
can, to be celibate. It seemed beautiful to me to follow 

Celibacy can be brutal, can produce as much heartache 
as dating. All of this has taken something out of me. 
Beauty attracts us as an image and is dangerous, can be 
a horror. There’s something in us that is disturbing, 
called out by beauty. My reality has been a horror real¬ 
ity. But yet when the image of something, the image of 
celibacy as much as the image of a person, is taken 
down, broken; or maybe the better image is, “hip- 
touched” (like Jacob wrestling with God 1 ), or better put, 
when we pay more than we were willing to pay for some¬ 
thing; the beauty can still remain. And now, the thing 
that had to be changed, me or you, has changed, but 
what is beautiful and valuable can remain as it always 
was, and we will always have its beauty. 

The sticking point is us, our hearts. When we come to 
be in tune with God, when we cease to be “strangers to 
God’s heart”, then Satan has lost. So he tries to keep us 
from doing that, so that we can continue to cause pain to 
God. As long as it’s possible for us to come into tune 





Someday, before this world is rolled up like a map and 
put away, and we are taken to the next, we may arrive at 

We might destroy ourselves, but if we keep living, eventu¬ 
ally we will reach sustainability. 

What will that day look like? We have some clues by 
looking at the cultures of humans who have achieved sus¬ 
tainability before us. There are people who have 
adapted to living in the same areas for thousands of 
years. There were many of these cultures, especially in 
North and South America, Africa, the Pacific Islands and 
in Australia, before modern Europeans brought their 
“guns, germs, and steel” to the rest of the world, along 
with their infectious culture (including a kind of Chris¬ 
tianity, an infectious leaven). Many of these cultures 
have passed away, but there are records of them, and the 
way their societies functioned. 

There can be different sustainabilities, just as there can 
be different maturities. Someone can settle into one 
adult self, but if they were raised differently, perhaps into 
another. Modern culture is an immaturity, an adoles¬ 
cence or young adulthood. But around the age of 30 (for 
many people), it can be said that adulthood is reached, 
for better or worse. 

I read a book called Millennium: Tribal Wisdom and the 
Modern World. The author, an anthropologist who 
worked in Brazil, saw something like this happen: 

To love God is an altruistic act. 

There are different meanings to the word “theism”. Usu¬ 
ally it has meant “believing that a personal God exists”. 
There’s a philosophical term “classical theism”, which 
means “God exists and is omnipotent, omniscient, orn- 
nibenevolent, and omnipresent.” 

There’s a term “humanism”, which means something like 
“to love human beings because they suffer, to help human 
beings”. So another meaning of “theism” could be “to 
love God because he suffers, to help God.” 

Here is something to think about, a story. 

If reality is person-centric, that might mean that there is 
nothing except persons. A person is simply experience, 
which is a life-story or life-process. A person is simply 
experience drawn together in a single point of view. Ex¬ 
perience is simply communication. I communicate a lit¬ 
tle bit to myself, but mostly I communicate to God, by 
moving my fingers or legs (or sending thoughts through 
my brain), and God communicates back, by showing me 
the world, even my own body. What I say to you or any¬ 
one else, goes through God. 

Any time I use my body in a way that is sin to God, I 
make God have to do something that is sin to him. 
There’s a lot of cognitive dissonance, being God, main¬ 
taining a world in which people use it, the world, his 
body, in painful ways. We can violate God. 



couragement. We could hold each other accountable or 
challenge each other, but I think this is not as beautiful. 
There’s fear in those. But, to each their own. 


The tribe held log races. They would divide the tribe 
into two teams. Then they would cut a large but not too 
large log off of a palm tree. The log would be heavy 
enough for one person to carry for a while with some 

The teams would run, with people on each team coming 
up to relieve their teammates of the log, a kind of relay 
race. Then, one team would reach the village first, and 
be victorious. There would be speeches (these people 
love to make speeches). 

One time, the anthropologist saw the tribe cutting obvi¬ 
ously unequal logs. He questioned why this was done, 
but it was done. 

The two teams set out to run. As one could expect, the 
team with the heavier log fell behind. But then, some¬ 
thing happened which surprised the anthropologist. 
Runners from the lighter-log team came over to help the 
team that was carrying the heavier log! And the heavier 
log caught up, and the two teams were very close. 

There was a great deal of excitement in the village. The 
race was very close, and one of the teams barely won. 
Very enthusiastic speeches were given. 

Will something like this happen, in our sustainable fu¬ 
ture? I don’t know, but I hope for something as beauti¬ 
ful as that. 



I grew up in a Christian family, and have read many of 
the books of the Bible many times. I went through a 
journey of trying to understand how the Bible made 

I found a book that made the Bible make sense to me. 
But then after I read that book, I was trying to figure 
out what was really true. How can the Bible be true? It 
seems like it’s not corroborated by other evidence, some¬ 

Do people believe the Bible because it has been proven to 
be true, corroborated by all the evidence? I think some 
people do. They think that in fact, the real evidence 
suggests that the Bible really is 100% literally true. 

Many people say otherwise. I find what they say appeal¬ 
ing, but then, I do not know. 

People tell of times when, simply explaining the Gospel 
story to someone, the other person immediately knew it 
was true and changed their lives. There was no rigorous 
knowing going on. They just knew. There was some¬ 
thing “subtextual” going on, I guess. 

So what do I think the Bible says? There are many de¬ 
nominations, which each say different things, but this is 
what I have come to. 

God created the universe. People sinned, and because of 
that, life had to be hard. God chose a people group to 
work with primarily, but that didn’t work out. God sent 


Some people give 10% of their income to help cure dis¬ 
eases. A few give 90% of their income. Some people give 
of their income to help teach people about Jesus. Some 
people are paid this money and actually do the work, of 
curing and of teaching. 

There is something beautiful in self-giving. It’s like the 
beauty of singleness. You offer yourself, no more, no less. 
There’s a humility in only living off what you need, and 
a humility in the generosity of giving everything else. 

Evil says “wake up from your beautiful dream” and to 
deal with evil then becomes beautiful, because we forget 
beauty. Some people operate out of the sense that evil is 
real. Evil is so strong, it prevents epistemology. Perhaps 
these people are best suited for being altruists, out of 

But altruism can be distorted by fear. An altruist, out of 
fear and drivenness, can burn him- or herself out. An al¬ 
truist might even do something horrible, out of responsi¬ 
bility to “the greater good”. Evil has a prestige which 
multiplies its power. That horrible thing might not have 
seemed unavoidable, if we weren’t in a fearful context, or 
context-set. Some altruists make simple decisions, but 
some make difficult decisions. 

Perhaps we can love out of beauty rather than out of 
fear, just as effectively as we would out of fear. I think 
this requires that we encourage each other. Hebrews 
10:24 suggests that we “stir each other up to love and 
good works”. I would take this in the direction of en- 




Scott Alexander wrote “Meditations on Moloch”, which is 
about how systems become worse, but also more ad¬ 
vanced. Competitive people throw away what hinders 
competition, and so beauty is lost. But competitiveness 
itself becomes more excellent. He calls this “Moloch”, af¬ 
ter the god of the Ammonites, to whom people sacrificed 
their children. 

Jesus’ teachings, to me, appear to be an answer to the 
problem of Moloch. Alexander suggests that some kind 
of God is needed to govern systems, to keep competition 
from running over. But short of that, a human being 
could take the role. 

Jesus taught people to be prudent, but also to trust God. 
And he also told people to work hard, to be salt, light, 
and leaven. He was pushing people to use their talents, 
but he wasn’t pushing all people. He was pushing the 
people who were drawn to all-out trust in God, the ones 
who were still with him after he said his teachings about 
not worrying about tomorrow, and selling everything and 
giving to the poor and following him. He was making a 
people group, of talented people who didn’t think like or¬ 
dinary talented people. He was causing them to succeed, 
but for different reasons. 

If you look at the life of Jesus (and the death of Jesus) 
and you are drawn to living it yourself, it is likely be¬ 
cause you love beauty. You can die for beauty without 
fear of coercive power; you can be orthogonal to Moloch. 

his son, Jesus, who accurately represented God to the 
world, and Jesus was killed by the people he was sent to. 
Then people who were inspired by Jesus told people 
about him. And then they made a prophecy: some years 
in the future, Jesus would return to earth. The world as 
we know it would end, and then those of us who hadn’t 
completely hardened ourselves to God’s voice would be 
resurrected to a new life. Some of us would be com¬ 
pletely in tune with God, and would work as God’s 
agents to instruct and encourage everyone else. Eventu¬ 
ally, everyone would become holy, in tune with God, and 
then we would all join God forever. 

The Bible says other things. It talks about the nature of 
God. God created the universe and is in control of phys¬ 
ical reality. God is also emotional and is affected by our 
dissonances with him and with each other. God is more 
emotional than I am, more caring than I am. God is 
more responsible than I am. God doesn’t always get 
what he wants. God can make all things work out in the 
end, and yet some people die because they can’t come 
into tune with him, they choose not to. God doesn’t 
want that to happen, but it happens. God seems to talk 
to Satan, a being who seeks to tempt God by saying that 
we’re not worth loving, and tempts us in many different 

Reality is not all about beauty. Reality is also about 
evil, and about persons. Evil says “wake up from your 
beautiful dream” and to deal with evil then becomes 
beautiful, because we forget beauty. What is most beau¬ 
tiful is to be a person, and what makes a person beauti¬ 
ful is them, in who they are. If reality is person-cen¬ 
tered, this makes sense. To transcend beauty is the most 
beautiful thing, because then we are left with real per¬ 



But God, in his particularity, has some preferences that 
we might not understand. He doesn’t want us to drink 
blood, or to engage in what could be called, in general, 
sexual immorality. I know that there is a tribe in East 
Africa that used to live off of blood and milk. 2 How 
could we tell these people not to do that? There are 
many people in the West who practice sexual immorality. 
How can we tell these people not to do that? Do we 
know for certain that we really understand the Bible on 
this point? 

To understand the Bible is beyond me. But when I read 
it last (I read the whole thing over the last year), it 
seemed to me that I could obey the commands to not 
commit sexual immorality or drink blood, at least, that I 
could make those goals of mine. 

1 think that when the world ends, we will get our an¬ 
swers. In the meantime, we have a lot of choices. These 
choices are hard to make, but they allow us to go to 
where we find beauty. If the choice were too easy, we 
would be stuck with whatever made “perfect sense”. 
Choosing allows us to exercise our hearts. 

The Bible is both attractive and repulsive. It is attrac¬ 
tive in ways that God is attractive, and repulsive in ways 
that God is repulsive. So, I should say that God is both 
attractive and repulsive. Yet the greatest beauty comes 
from loving real people, who are both attractive and re¬ 
pulsive. There is a deeper attraction, in me, to that. 

Do I know that the Bible is true, that God is as de¬ 
scribed in the Bible? I can’t explain it all textually, 

2 The Maasai, who consume less blood nowadays, but still consume 

which is to say, no, I don’t know any of that, if I expose 
it to epistemology. But the message speaks to me, and 
so that’s how I live. And of all the things which exist, to 
me, in every context, God is among them, and I think in 
a subtextual way, what I mean when I say (or see) God 
is “God as revealed in the Old and New Testaments”. I 
can only speak for myself, when I am in public.